Festive ballets by Van Manen
Festivities of this scope and duration are usually reserved for kings and queens. The dance-loving Netherlands began celebrating the eightieth birthday of Hans van Manen (Nieuwer Amstel, 11 July 1932) in March already. Introdans kicked off with a youth programme, the Dutch National Ballet organised a gala in July, and Nederlands Dans Theater recently presented two festive programmes, with a really fun ‘fashion show’ of costumes from Van Manen’s NDT oeuvre as an encore. Last Friday, the Dutch National Ballet presented a Hans van Manen programme. And on 5 October, the celebratory flag will finally be lowered.
Those who attended all the festivities were treated to some first-class works by Van Manen. On Friday, there was the evergreen Grosse Fuge (1971, to music by Beethoven), still incredibly exciting for its erotic undertones, and the less frequently performed romantic Four Schumann Pieces, with a wonderfully controlled, virile Matthew Golding in the main role. Igone de Jongh, always at her best in Van Manen ballets, stood out in the other two more recent ballets. Remi Wörtmeyer has the Van Manen factor as well. He is sharp, musical and witty, without trying to be droll. Whether it’s Van Manen’s birthday or not, watching his work is always a celebration.
(Francine van der Wiel, 26 September)
'Hans-van-Manen-arms' ought to be included in the dictionary
***** (5 stars out of 5)
Actually, the word Hans-van-Manen-arms ought to be included in the dictionary. In over fifty years as a choreographer, Van Manen has built up an immense oeuvre (his ballets already total more than 125) and a rich vocabulary, but nothing betrays the Van Manen-ness of a ballet phrase like the arms.
They are often stretched out wide at a 45-degree angle; sometimes with clenched fists, but more often with open palms, and sometimes forwards (like in a jazz routine) and then to the side, as if they are personally responsible for preventing the universe from collapsing.
There are nuances, however. In the sensual Grosse Fuge from 1971, which opens the programme A master’s touch – an overwhelming tribute to Hans van Manen – the clenched fists are a statement by the four male dancers (with bare upper bodies, shiny belts and black culottes) of the Dutch National Ballet: “Hello ladies, here we are!” But the four ladies in flesh-coloured unitards remain remarkably unimpressed by the macho behaviour. It is only in the second part (likewise to music by Beethoven) that there is mutual capitulation.
Right from the beginning of the sultry Two pieces for HET (1997), the raised arms stand for empowerment. Igone de Jongh and Alexander Zhembrowskyy are a match for one another – although Zhembrowskyy’s black thong was not strictly necessary.
In the poetic Four Schumann Pieces – made by Van Manen for The Royal Ballet in 1975 – we have to be very patient before the arms go up again. Only in the very last ensemble section are they raised in euphoria. The success of the work depends on the lead male role (previously danced by the likes of Han Ebbelaar, Boris de Leeuw and Rudolf Nureyev), and Matthew Golding interprets this role with verve.
But there is no lack of raised arms in Frank Bridge Variations. They are passionately thrust in the air like double exclamation marks, and when in doubt kept firmly clamped to the sides of the body. In the double duet at the beginning of the ‘Wiener Waltzer’, the two couples (Igone de Jongh and Jozef Varga, and Larissa Lezhnina and Remi Wörtmeyer) enter into dialogue with their limbs. ‘So, what do you want?’ ‘I don’t know. You tell me’, the arms wave at one another.
‘Dance expresses dance, and nothing more’, Van Manen says in the film Van Manen – Performer, even though he admits straight away that he’s not actually sure about this. However, on Friday evening, the Hans-van-Manen-arms were proof to the contrary.
Bregtje Schudel (24 September 2012)
Breathtaking masterpieces by the Dutch National Ballet and NDT
Premier league dance
Hans van Manen’s 80th birthday was already celebrated in July with a gala, but the Dutch National Ballet and Nederlands Dans Theater have both opened their seasons with another tribute to the choreographer. And there is no question of overkill, judging by the enthusiastic response from the audiences.
The Dutch National Ballet is now presenting Four Schumann Pieces in a remarkably well-staged performance. This 1975 masterpiece was last danced over eight years ago in The Amsterdam Music Theatre. Once again, the company has a wonderful dancer who can tackle the difficult main role. Matthew Golding has the charisma and technique to sweep the audience along in his poignant encounter with two women and one man. Not only have the costumes changed over the years, but also many details of the choreography itself. The dreamy romanticism of the past has made way for a tauter and more masculine approach, in a new vision of timeless beauty.
Throughout the rest of the evening, too, the audience is treated to premier league dance, including the exciting unity in diversity of Frank Bridge Variations and the sultry tension of Two pieces for HET (interpreted with intensity by Igone de Jongh and Alexander Zhembrovskyy). The erotically charged Grosse Fuge is once again interpreted strongly by the eight dancers. One of them, Casey Herd, was presented with the Alexandra Radius Prize before curtain-up by Alexandra Radius herself.
Celebrations in Amsterdam and also in The Hague. As the new artistic director of Nederlands Dans Theater, Paul Lightfoot has reinforced the links with the choreographer who was there at the company’s inception in 1959 and who has created 62 works for its dancers. A breathtaking relay of five more or less brilliantly performed ballets ended with a hilarious fashion show. On the catwalk, the dancers gave a very provocative show of costumes from over half a century of dance history. The audiences virtually climbed on their seats with enthusiasm. But that’s just the way it is: never a dull moment with Van Manen.
Eddie Vetter (24 September 2012)
Van Manen’s ode to the ballerino
4 stars out of 5
A master’s touch is the name of the opening programme of the Dutch National Ballet’s new season. Master choreographer Hans van Manen turned eighty this year, which is cause for celebration. Last season was closed with a festive gala, which is now followed by part 2: a selection of four acclaimed ballets. The evening’s spotlight is trained on the male dancer.
First of all, the Alexandra Radius Prize was presented to Casey Herd. His thanks went to all the female dancers he has partnered, his mother – who taught him the rudiments of dance – and the orchestra. “I love dancing to your music”. Holland Symfonia is facing drastic budget cuts, but will continue to accompany the dancers in the coming years. Applause.
Though Van Manen has choreographed for over fifty years now, he will always be a dancer in heart and soul, and he still demonstrates the steps himself in the studio. So it is nice that the evening begins with a compilation of film clips of him dancing, bearing testimony to his musicality, humour and unmistakable swing.
Musical compositions are always at the root of Van Manen’s creations (all works for strings this evening), but his greatest source of inspiration is the dancers with whom he works. That was certainly the case with Four Schumann Pieces, which he created for the Royal Ballet in London, in 1975. The dancer in question was Anthony Dowell, the man with the beautiful lines and impressive turns. Later on, the role was also danced by Rudolf Nureyev, Han Ebbelaar and Boris de Leeuw. Tonight it is the turn of Matthew Golding, who shows that he, too, is an ideal Van Manen dancer. Self-assured, virile, moving with great clarity and intensity, in a white, close-fitting costume, arms spread wide and chest thrust forwards – Golding fills the stage with his presence. The five couples around him dance superbly, but he is the unrivalled centre of attention.
Jozef Varga and Remi Wörtmeyer (in Frank Bridge Variations) also have a very convincing Van Manen style. Varga couples precision with modest yet princely grace. In Wörtmeyer’s case, precision is combined with lightness. He takes his steps seriously, yet manages to give them a touch of light-heartedness at the same time. “Wonderful dancers” was the master’s compliment to his muses after the performance. “The Dutch National Ballet dances my work better than any other company in the world”.
All in all, it was an opening programme that revealed the beautiful dancers the company has to offer this season, even though many beauties have left recently. It also provided a counterbalance for all the sylphs, swans and Giselles that float across the stage in the nineteenth-century fairytale repertoire. The master choreographer shows that the ladies can also make an impression if they remain with both feet firmly on the ground, and that the gentlemen are perfectly at home occupying centre stage.
Jacq. Algra (24 September 2012)